HIPP Help for Local Organization for the Homeless

Madison, Wisconsin - In UW Health's Health Information Management department, it's HIPP to help the homeless.


In January, Health Information Management's HIPP - that's Health Information Party Planning - committee decided to direct its energies outward in support of Porchlight, a Madison-based non-profit organization that helps homeless people find emergency and low-cost housing. 


"We wanted to find a way to give back to the community," says Lisa Williams, a senior information assistant for the Health Information Management group who spearheaded the initial research push that identified Porchlight as the organization to which the HIPP committee wanted to donate. "We all decided this would be a perfect organization."


For many, homelessness can be something of an invisible problem, often underreported and overlooked. But even in relatively affluent cities like Madison and surrounding towns, homelessness is pervasive:

  • In 2010, more than 3,000 people in Dane County spent at least one night in a shelter.
  • More than 1,000 of those people were children.
  • More than 18 percent of Dane County residents earn less annually than the established poverty line, with poverty being by far the largest predictor of homelessness.
  • In 2011, more than 2,000 people were turned away from shelters due to inadequate space.

Health Information Management staff prepare "Welcome Home" baskets for delivery to Porchlight.With the consensus of the HIPP committee, Lisa contacted Porchlight resource development director Beatrice Hadidian to see how they could contribute to the organization's cause. Beatrice suggested the HIPP committee gather supplies for the "Welcome Home" baskets Porchlight gives to people making the transition from homelessness.


"The baskets are for families who were previously homeless," says LaDeidra Mitchell, also a senior information assistant and HIPP committee participant. "Porchlight helps them find apartments, but they only have the clothes on their back. They need stuff to get a fresh start."


Stuff like cleaning and kitchen supplies, bedding and towels. The HIPP committee spread word of their project throughout the massive Excelsior Dr. complex in which Health Information Management resides, and collected donations for nearly a month. At the end of the month, they were blown away by their colleagues' generosity.


"A lot of us got teary-eyed because we were so thrilled to see so many people giving so much," says Health Information Management supervisor Julie Poffinbarger. "It was right after Christmas. Pocketbooks can get really tight. We were astonished by what people had taken the time to give."


In cramped cars - "It was to the point where the baskets were almost sitting on our laps," Lisa says - they drove the baskets to Porchlight, where they were warmly received.


"'Welcome Home' baskets help to foster strength and stability for Porchlight's new residents," Beatrice says. "Most of our new residents move directly into Porchlight housing from the streets or shelters and bring with them only what they've been able to carry on their backs for months or even years. Volunteer groups who step in save our agency an extraordinary amount of time and resources. This opportunity also provides volunteer groups the chance to create something meaningful that has a lasting impact on the lives of our community's most vulnerable members."


"Thank you to you and your HIPP team for creating such amazing 'Welcome Home' baskets," she adds. "I was so impressed by how active your entire office was in the donation drive. Porchlight is so grateful to have your support and awareness."

Date Published: 03/12/2013

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